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Tim McGee; Language Arts; Worland High School
“Live your life as if it were your last”
The first bell rang; students rushed to their classes and clumsily threw their books onto the tables. Mr. McGee strides through the classroom door with a sunny grin on his face and greet us humorously to another boring day of school.
Most of my teachers have taught the same stuff, in the same style, avoided the same things, and so on. Then there was this one teacher. He always wore a tan-colored coat, a matching colored hat that hung on his back, white earphones in his ear, and sometimes a pencil also behind his ear. Every time he passed me, he would say, “Good day,” and slightly bow before moving on.
Early October 2008, while everyone was bustling to their papers ready, Mr. McGee walked to the front of the class, sat down on the desk with his legs dangling over the edge and then began class with the recitation of one of Keats’ poems. He paused and looked around, then sat up and began discussing the story The Death of Ivan Ilych.
“What would it be like to reach the end of your life and then suddenly discover that it was all wrong?” Ilych thought he was rising, but was he actually…falling?” Then Mr. McGee hands gripped the edge the table and he looked down, readying himself to discuss a serious matter. “If you had just ten seconds left to live, can you honestly say that you’re ready to leave? Have you any…regrets?” Silence.
Mr. McGee wasn’t just another English teacher who made his students read stories, memorize vocabulary, and take tests. He wasn’t just another teacher who awarded “A’s” to the procrastinating gifted writers; he awarded anyone who gave the time and effort to try. He did not judge people from the outside, believing that only those who answer questions out loud are the brightest; he was able to recognize the secret potential within all students. I am a quiet, calm, and somewhat serious student who would rather listen than talk. Most teachers just assumed that that’s all there is to me. However, Mr. McGee saw the secret potential within my essays, stories, and once-in-a-while nod and encouraged me to work harder. He lightened my downcasts, always believing in my abilities and my future.
Furthermore, he gave me what I needed: a class that challenged my beliefs. To many in my small town, it is a big “no no” to ask questions that may contradict community religious or moral beliefs. His classroom was a sanctuary for those who wanted to test their own will and potential, prepare themselves for real world competition and overcome common interrogations.
No, he is unlike any other teacher I will ever have. He pushed my mental capacity to think, solve problems, analyze different views, and most of all; he made me realize that there is never just one right answer. His goal was both to challenge students and make them realize sometimes you have to un-learn in order to learn and advance. It has worked.
I no longer see fellow students as just humans; I see their potential. Every time I see a beautiful model in a magazine, I quote, “All things sags and bags.” I look at my faults and see an opportunity for improvement. I have changed because of one teacher. No longer can I listen to a teacher, parent, community member, or some CNN news reporter without questioning the facts or wondering if it was one-sided. The more I see and understand, I more distant I feel from many of my friends and classmates. However, I will never give up my new level of understanding.
Because Mr. McGee believed in me, trusted me, encouraged, and opened my mind to a new view on the world, I survived high school, I continued writing, and most of all, he gave me the confidence and the ability to enter my dream school.